Best Grass to Grow Under Oak Trees in Florida

Oaks are magnificent trees that are integral parts of many ecosystems. They add stately character, grace, and shade to a home landscape, mainly when used as a single specimen tree. But what about growing grass under them?

First off, most grasses grow best in full sun. For the most part, this means grass doesn’t do well under the leaf canopy of large trees. Moreover, established oak trees usually have extensive root systems, meaning that grass under them will have t compete with the tree roots for water and soil nutrients.

Well, while this might scare you from planting anything under the canopy of oak trees, there are few varieties of grasses that can thrive under oak’s shade. This post will focus on grass that can thrive under oak trees in Florida.

Growing grass under oak trees

Best grass to grow under oak trees in Florida

Grass doesn’t do well under oaks. Oak trees don’t much like grass under them either. Even so, growing grass under oak trees isn’t impossible altogether.

While all grasses require some sunlight, there are shade-tolerant varieties that thrive with only a few hours of partial sun. Here are grasses that will thrive under oak trees in Florida.

1. St. Augustine grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum)

Best grass to grow under oak trees in Florida

St. Augustine grass is hailed as the most shade-tolerant warm-season grass, with some cultivars requiring only 4-5 hours of partial sun to thrive. That said, the most shade-tolerant cultivars to consider are Palmetto, Sapphire, Seville, and Bitter blue.

When planting, remember that these cultivars need their sunlight requirements met to thrive. So, if your oaks cast full shade, you will need to cut the canopy above the grass to improve its survival ability.

2. Zoysia grass (zoysia spp.)

Zoysia is a warm-season grass that tolerates shade pretty well. Although it grows best in full sun, it will do well when grown under oak trees in Florida. At the bare minimum, zoysia grass requires not less than 3-4 hours of direct sunshine to thrive well. It will also thrive in 6 hours of partial sun.

For people living in Florida, some of the varieties to consider are Zeon, Zorro, Diamond, and Cavallier. Generally, fine-blade Zoysia varieties tend to tolerate shades more than other cultivars.

3. Centipedegrass (Eremochloa ophiuroides)

Best grass to grow under oak trees in Florida

While centipede grass grows best in full sun, it will thrive under oak trees with about six hours of partial sun daily. TennTurf, Oaklawn, and TifBlair tend to be the most shade-tolerant cultivars.

4. Carpet grass (Axonopus spp.)

Although not commonly available, carpet grass is another excellent option for growing under shade, but in deep shade all day. It is low maintenance and can thrive with about 6 hours of filtered light daily.

5. Bahiagrass (Paspalum notatum)

If you can find another warm-season grass to grow under oak trees, you might want to consider bahiagrass. It has a poor shade tolerance, though, and might not do well under the canopy of oak trees.

Pensacola and Argentine are some of the sods that may not disappoint.

Bermudagrass (Cynodon spp.) and buffalograss (Buchloe dactyloides) are other options that you may want to try. They have very poor shade tolerance, however.

Managing grass under oak trees

Best grass to grow under oak trees in Florida

All plants require sufficient sunlight for photosynthesis. As such, any warm-season grass planted under an oak tree, or any form of shade, needs diligent care to flourish, no matter its ability to tolerate shade.

Here are tips to help grass thrive under oak trees:

  • Minimize foot traffic, whether from people or pets, on the grass under shady areas
  • Increase mowing height so that the grass has more surface to absorb the limited sunlight.
  • Treat lawn disease promptly to keep survival ability at its optimum.
  • Seed, preferably overseed, each fall. This will help the grass grow denser than weed.

When planting under oak trees, keep in mind that oaks hate to have their soil compacted, drainage patterns changed, or soil levels altered. You can, however, prune lower limbs to let more sun into the ground where your grass is.

Best grass to grow under oak trees in Florida: Conclusion

Properly selected warm-season shade-tolerant grass can grow well under oak trees in Florida. However, to achieve desirable results, you will need to be a little patient and commit to extra lawn maintenance. If you are planning to grow grass under oak trees, hopefully, you will find this post helpful.

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